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Opinion
Last Updated: 04/27/2012
Teachers for Maintaining Peace and Security: The Goals of the United Nations
Suman Shukla

Suman Shukla on the important and oftentimes under-appreciated role of teachers in peace building and prevention of violent conflict worldwide.


The major goal of the United Nations as set forth in Article 1 of its Charter is “to maintain peace and security”. But before its establishment, there were two World Wars, many civil wars, widespread exploitation and oppression of people by those inside and outside governments; this practice of injustice is still prevalent everywhere. Source: The Guardian And even since its inception on 24 October 1945, there have been nine conflicts, each of which took at least a million lives. Nearly 110 million deaths from violent inter- and intrastate conflict were estimated in the 20th century. Today, the United Nations faces the problems of ‘genocide’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘global terrorism’.

However, in recent years, from Cambodia to Somalia to Kosovo, peacekeeping activities of the UN have been directed mainly toward easing internal civil conflicts, not wars between States. This is because the United Nations is neither a permanent cure of war, oppression or exploitation, nor a preventive tool to check violence or an instrument to sustain perpetual peace and security. The United Nations is the temporary relief for the people suffering due to war, violence, exploitation, natural calamities and the like. A great political thinker, Groom, also observes that “the United Nations is primarily a reactive body not a preventive one which responds to situations after they have occurred or while they are in the process of developing rather than in an anticipatory manner.”

Here, teachers are the best helpers and supporters of the United Nations for achieving its goals of maintaining peace and security, because teachers are the true guides of the students enabling them to sustain perpetual peace and to be secured mutually. Therefore, teachers, who are quiet peacemakers, are needed by the United Nations for its mission of peace and security.

Röling, the late distinguished Dutch international legal scholar thought similarly:

“The United Nations will need the support of scholars in the near future more than ever, because it will grow more and more unpopular… Insight will be necessary, in the defense of United Nations actions, and even perhaps courage. Students and scholars should be prepared for this coming controversy, where the demands of narrow nationalism should be opposed and answered by the demands of humanity as a whole.”

In fact, only teachers have global minds. According to Chhandogya Upanishad, man is able to declare, “I, indeed, am this whole world”. A great teacher, Socrates, declared, “I am not a citizen of Athens, or Greece but a citizen of the world”. And his contemporary Diogenes also said, “I am a citizen of the world”. ‘World–Teacher’ or ‘Global Teacher’ (Jagat-Guru) and the concept that the ‘whole world is a family’ (Vasudhav Kutumbakam) are also the ancient Indian concepts about the relationship between teachers and the world. And this very concept of world-mindedness, which is the basis of lasting peace and security, can be inculcated in the minds of students by their teachers. Therefore, the UNESCO Constitution also asserts “that a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of peoples of the world, and that the peace must be therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.”

But teachers have been low-paid, neglected, exploited, humiliated, expelled, tortured and murdered. Elnadi and Rifaat of UNESCO Courier remarked, “It is doubtless true that, in a number of cases, the authority with which teachers are invested has been sullied by some abusive exercise of power.” Then UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor also observed, “The intellectual community has suffered too long…. The psychic wounds are even deeper than the physical wounds.” A UNESCO study showed that millions of teachers were teaching in the face of danger and violence. This is as true in any industrialized country as it is in conflict-torn-societies like Rwanda, where 60% of teachers have died or fled the country since 1993. The study pointed out that many governments have frozen real spending on teachers’ salaries over the past decade. “Teachers everywhere are generally underpaid and in some countries they wait for months to receive their meager salaries”, said Mayor.

The 1998 Edition of UNESCO’s World Education Report reveals that working conditions of teachers are becoming more and more precarious. In their majority, teachers earn survival wages – a few dozen dollars a month -- without benefitting from any special social prestige in compensation. In India, their conditions are no better. Here, in one state, a college ad hoc teacher gets Rs.1800/- per month. In a university of another state, a contributory university teacher receives Rs.4500/- per year, which is Rs.375/- per month. And the same state government has recently issued a resolution directing the appointment of teachers on a contract basis with a monthly salary of Rs.2000/- for primary school teachers; Rs.2500/- for secondary school teachers, and Rs.3000/- for junior college teachers. The services of regular permanent teachers are also not secured because many teachers are illegally terminated and their cases remain pending for a long period of time in tribunals and courts for redressal of their grievances. In many cases, their back-wages and compensation are not paid, even if their terminations were declared illegal by the competent courts.

The Human Rights Commission must interfere in the cases of teachers that have been lingering for a long time in tribunals and courts, and also in those cases whose judgments are reserved for many months. They must also plead for full justice in these cases, such as interest on back-wages, due compensation for material loss and mental torture, and exemplary punishment to the persons involved in illegal termination and harassment of teachers.

Wars and insecurity are the results of the neglect and loss of many great teachers and education worldwide. And “the loss of intellectual resources – a true human wealth -- constitutes a serious blow to the development of human resources”, observed then Director-General of UNESCO Federico Mayor. It is indeed true that education has not been available for all, neither in the past nor in the present. Hence, it has been inhuman. Therefore, there cannot be perpetual peace without perpetual development. There cannot be perpetual development without perpetual education. There cannot be perpetual education without free formal education for all and a good number of teachers available in every society of the world.

Free formal education for all and a good number of teachers cannot be perpetually available without proper, adequate and, essentially, required investment in education and on teaching facilities. This means that peace -- individual, national or international -- is possible only when education is free for all, and when full facilities are available for teachers.

Regarding free education for all, I would like to advise all governments to think as expenditure on education not as “expenditure”, but rather as an “investment” – investment in human resource development. In the long run, not only the particular society, but all societies of the world will get heavy returns for centuries, while the cost of ignorance can be very high for every society. Hence, education, even higher education, should not be considered non-merit goods and services, and should not be compared with electricity, diesel and fertilizer with respect to subsidies. And governments, which are representatives of their people and signatories to the Charter of the United Nations on behalf of their nations’ peoples, must be ready to pay for all levels of education to build non-exploitative, non-violent and democratic societies. All levels of education are very much merit goods and services, and thus, the highest result of education is peace. Therefore, let education be free for all – the children of rich and poor both – for students to feel themselves obliged and indebted towards all mankind.

Concerning facilities and comfort for teachers, it is my view that teachers are assets not only of a particular nation but of other nations, as well. Sometimes, all nations of the world reap the benefits of the contributions of teachers of a particular nation. This means that if any society is known to be materially developed, culturally civilized, and socially and spiritually peaceful, it is due to its teachers. Truly, teachers are the real civilizations of mankind. During the Second World War, a university teacher of Great Britain, when asked what he was doing when the fight for civilization was on, replied, “I am the civilization you are fighting for”. In fact, not only the present civilization but civilizations of many generations were produced by the infinite labour of creative teachers. Our national civilizations are varied expression of one civilization emerging for our whole civilized humanity. And for these creations, some of our great teachers had to lose their lives. However, the ideas, principles, theories, laws, formulas, preaching and practices for which they were humiliated, tortured and killed are the contents of real education, i.e. peace education. They are the pioneers and initiators of peace education. And presently still, about 60 million teachers (including about 6 million Indian teachers), hold the future of over a billion people in their hands. By virtue of their nature, quality and character, they are ready to take responsibility to serve the cause of peace and security to support the United Nations. Equally, they are also prepared to empower students toward learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together, as emphasized by Jacques Delor of UNESCO in the report entitled. Learning: The Treasure Within (1998).

Thus, teachers all over the world deserve to get full facilities and all of the necessary comfort, as well as due regard and reward from national as well as international societies. And also their educated learners have the right to get free education for all levels. Then, teachers will certainly be able to fulfill the dream of being great teachers of peace the world around, and they will certainly be able to carry on the responsibility to create a culture of peace for the benefits of all mankind. As such, they will support the United Nations toward achieving its goal of peace and security by making their students - who are nations, peoples and future governments – more peaceful and secure, to sustain perpetual peace and security.

Suman Shukla is Associate Editor (Hon.) of Peace Education: An International Journal and Associate Professor, Bar. S. K. Wankhede College of Education, RTM Nagpur University. Suman can be reached at sumansprasad@yahoo.com.


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